Oyster lovers take note!
The 2020-2021 season for recreational harvest of shellfish (clams and oysters) in coastal waters of South Carolina officially starts at the beginning of October. The recreational shellfish season will remain open through May 15, 2021, unless conditions warrant extending or shortening the season.
In the event of another hurricane, major rain event, or pollution spill, shellfish beds may be temporarily closed by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC). It is important for harvesters to check with DHEC to verify whether any closures are in effect. Call 1-800-285-1618 or go to the DHEC website for the interactive map. DHEC will use these resources and your local newspaper throughout the year to announce temporary closures due to unusual rain events or spills.
SCDNR maintains State Shellfish Grounds for commercial and recreational harvesting of clams and oysters.
Twenty Public Shellfish Grounds and 13 State Shellfish Grounds are exclusively for recreational gathering. An additional 52 State Shellfish Grounds are for recreational and commercial harvest. All state-managed grounds post boundary signs.
Recreational harvesters should obtain updated Public or State Shellfish Ground map at the beginning of each season, as areas open to harvest change from year to year. Maps of designated harvest areas may be downloaded from the SCDNR website or accessed online through the Recreational Map Web Application. Call (843) 953-9854 or writing the Shellfish Management Section, Attn: Ben Dyar, SCDNR, PO Box 12559, Charleston, SC 29422-2559 for printed maps. When requesting maps, please specify the general area where you wish to harvest. Maps for the 2019-20 season will be available prior to season opening on October 1, 2020.
Recreational harvesters must have a Saltwater Recreational Fishing License, available from SCDNR, at many fishing supply stores, and online.
The recreational limit is two U.S. bushels of oysters and one-half bushel of clams in any one day, limited to two calendar days per seven-day period. One U.S. bushel is equal to 8 gallons. There is a maximum possession of three personal limits per boat or vehicle. Clams must be at least 1 inch in thickness.
Commercial harvest of shellfish requires a commercial saltwater fishing license, mandatory harvester training, and other licenses and permits depending on where the harvest will occur. Call the Marine Permitting Office at (843) 953-0453 for additional information on commercial harvesting requirements.
Please “cull in place” when harvesting.
This means leaving dead shell and smaller oysters on the shoreline. These continue to grow and provide habitat for future generations of oysters.
Oyster consumers are encouraged to recycle their shells. Check online or call (843) 953-9397 to find locations near you where shell can be dropped off for recycling. SCDNR uses saltwater recreational fishing license revenues to construct and enhance renewable oyster resources in the coastal counties by replanting recycled shell. All shells collected by the SCDNR restore shellfish grounds in coastal South Carolina.
Tips for Recycling Your Oyster Shells:
- DO bring your shell to the nearest shell recycling center. Drop-off locations are available online. To find a center, please call 843-953-9397.
- DO separate shell from trash. Shell mixed with trash (including shell in bags or containers) is not suitable for recycling. If you host an oyster roast, please provide separate containers for shells and trash.
- DON’T put live or freshly shucked oysters in South Carolina waters. Purchasing those harvested outside South Carolina, must NOT place them in SC waters, as it is illegal. Placing live oysters in our waters can harm local oysters by spreading disease. To avoid contamination, recycle shells through SCDNR and properly quarantined.